Weighing Morrison's Decision

Was this Brian Morrison's best decision? After two years of questionable judgment on the floor resulting in inconsistent playing time, the Redmond, Wash., native decided he'd look for a new challenge and a new home and will transfer from North Carolina.

"This was a very difficult decision for me to make, but I believe it is best if I pursue another school to finish my collegiate basketball career," Morrison said in a statement released by UNC last Monday.

Morrison's departure slightly clears up a potential logjam in the backcourt. Four other perimeter-oriented Tar Heels return and three enter as freshmen in the fall. But was this really a quality decision by Morrison?

His raw talents are obvious. He is super quick, is a solid on-ball defender, has rare leaping ability for a 6-foot-two player, has long range on his jumper, can penetrate with the ball and makes some of the slickest passes of anyone in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

His problem areas are also apparent.

He plays out of control too often. He turns the ball over with the dribble, the pass and takes too many questionable shots – sometimes at an alarming rate - prompting inquiries about his basketball IQ.

"He has got to take care of the basketball a little bit better and make better decisions," UNC coach Matt Doherty said about Morrison in early January.

Doherty's concerns were the root of Morrison's inconsistent playing time.

After three subpar performances in which his minutes ranged from nine to 25, Morrison exploded in UNC's fourth game – and first victory – by scoring 21 points in 23 minutes against Georgia Tech. For the first time, UNC fans saw his potential equal results.

A week later, Morrison, who finished the year averaging 7.1 points, 2.6 assists and 2.2 turnovers per game, committed seven turnovers in a loss at Kentucky and seemed to lose what little trust gained from Doherty in the win over Tech. And from that point on, he appeared to play while looking over his shoulder.

"My brother (Joseph) wrote me an e-mail before the game telling me ‘When you go out there play for an audience of one,'" Morrison said after the Tech game. "He knows I have been struggling some… So I wrote it on my shoe before the game."

Morrison was meant to be the audience of one, but once Doherty began yanking him from the lineup for his mistakes, perhaps a little quicker than his teammates, that audience of one instead appeared to become Doherty.

Despite some other excellent performances, that burden began to eat away at Morrison's game, rendering him nearly useless over the last month of the season.

"I just have to do what coach says and help the team," Morrison said in early February. "I know what needs to be done to better help the team."

Some UNC fans entered the blame game as to why Morrison wasn't playing as much as Jackie Manuel, Melvin Scott or Adam Boone, three players who on their best days couldn't measure up to Morrison on his. Some observers and fans suggested there was something personal between the coach and player. Some simply said Morrison was too erratic and too much of a liability for Doherty to trust more.

There is no evidence to support the negative perceptions of the relationship between Doherty and Morrison. Neither of them verbally gave any indication of the sort, exposing such talk as nothing more than distant speculation.

Doherty complimented Morrison's performances in postgame press conferences when warranted and never single-handedly pointed out Morrison for not playing well unless asked a specific question. But he also appeared to have a quicker trigger with respect to Morrison's mistakes than most or all of the other Heels.

"I don't think so," Morrison said with a slight grin in February when asked about having less leeway with mistakes than some of his mates. "I honestly don't think so. I need to take better care of the ball. But it's not like that."

To be fair to Doherty, this was nothing more than a theory based on speculation and wasn't subscribed to by all fans or paid observers. And Morrison himself never gave any legitimate indication there was any fire with that smoke.

Nevertheless, Morrison's departure could hurt the Tar Heels next season. His pace wasn't conducive to the slower-footed Boone or inexperienced Scott, but could go hand-in-hand with all-everything point guard Raymond Felton next year. Add to that the athletic prowess of fellow incoming freshman Rashad McCants and the trio could have developed into an exciting and productive bunch. Some of Morrison's no-look passes that went through the hands of intended receivers this season might have been scoffed up by next year's highly regarded newcomers.

On the flip side, had Morrison returned and continued to make mistakes while bringing down Doherty's signature class, he may have found himself primarily on the bench, hurting the program and essentially ending his basketball career.

He may flourish in another program. His new coach will accept him knowing what kind of player he has been in Chapel Hill and will probably be more tolerant of the talented guard's propensity for the flamboyant, and foolishness.

So, did Morrison make the right decision to leave?

"Brian and I met last night and agreed it was in his best interest to find another opportunity for him to finish his college career," Doherty said in a statement on Monday.

Time will tell, but under the circumstances, he probably did.


Andrew Jones is in his sixth year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He is also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a nightly radio show on WAAV-AM980 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AJWAAV@aol.com.


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